River Lions open training camp
The Niagara River Lions got down to business Monday morning at the Canada Games Park and Walker Sports and Abilities Centre in Thorold.
Sixteen players were on hand as the Canadian Elite Basketball League squad opened its training camp in anticipation of their season opener against the Saskatchewan Rattlers on May 25 at 9:30 p.m.
“The morning is a lot of teaching and building the fundamentals for the season,” Niagara head coach/co-GM Victor Raso said. “I have to instil how to cover the ball, how to rotate with two, rotate with three, rotate with four and then build to five and then do the same thing on offence.”
Raso is thrilled with who is in camp.
“We are really happy. This is the first time that we’ve had exactly who we want in camp be available at the start and then we have our training camp guys,” Raso said. “We have 10 guys here who are on our team and we have six guys who are training camp players.”
By the end of training camp Monday, Raso has to cut the roster down to 12 players.
“Phil Scrubb is on his way. He is coming later this week so Phil is No. 11.”
The six training camp players are USPORTS players. Four are from Brock and there’s one each from Simon Fraser and St. Francis Xavier.
“They are the third team in practice, they get to play against pros, they get a great experience and at the end of the training camp, I will keep one and let the rest go,” he said.
Signed players in camp are: returning Canadians Jaylen Babb-Harrison, Jake Babic, Olu Ashaolu, and Daniel Waldin-Mullings; new-to-the-team Canadians Alonzo Walker and Munis Tutu; new Americans Khalil Amhad, AJ Davis and EJ Onu; and, international player Tidjan Keita.
Members of the training camp group are Isaiah Bujdoso, Kasius Small-Martin, Godsman Kwakwah, Jordan Tchuente, Jordan Lyons and Antoine Vernon.
“We are happy to have all our guys here,” Raso said. “We were kind of lucky that some of the guys’ seasons ended in time. It’s exciting and we have good energy in the building.”
When training camp concludes on Monday, the team will fly to Saskatchewan Tuesday and open the season Wednesday.
“It is a short amount of time and you have to use your time wisely,” Raso said. “The guys who are local I have been driving all over the province making sure I can work them out and start to build what we are doing. The last couple of days as guys have rolled in, we have gotten them in the gym and started to teach them some stuff. And we have been going over film with them for the past couple of months so when we hit the ground running today, we are not at stage zero.”
Raso is excited by the turnover of the team’s roster.
“We have a good group of returnees and they understand it’s a new group. They are leading and the other guys feel welcome because of how the returnees are making them feel. It is not everyone back but there is a good level of continuity.”
An intrasquad scrimmage is scheduled for May 20 in front of students at A.N. Myer n Niagara Falls.
The River Lions home opener against the expansion Montreal Alliance will be played June 3 at 7 p.m. at the Meridian Centre.
Season tickets, voucher packs, marquee matchup packs, group tickets, and single game tickets are on sale now. Visit www.riverlions.ca/tickets for more information.